As residents of SL we get lots of information about tweaking our systems for better performance. Mostly we get information about the viewer and its settings. We are often referred to various network speed testing sites, like www.speedtest.net, to test network performance. But, seldom are residents told about tweaking their DNS resolvers. So, here is some information on tweaking your DNS settings.
DNS stand for Domain Name System or Domain Naming System. This is the part of the Internet that allows you to type in Internet URL’s as names like; blog.Nalates.net, Amazon.com, and SecondLife.com. The service then provides your computer an IP Address. For instance one of Second Life’s IP Addresses is: 22.214.171.124 (IPv4). The system consists of name servers around the world, some public and some privately owned. When a government wants to censor your connection they try to control the name servers as part of the effort. Computer crackers like to spoof name servers to hijack users.
The servers take some measurable time to look up the IP Address of a name. It is a cascading process. If a name server does not recognize a name, it asks its big brother. This cascade continues until the request reaches the mom and dad of name servers, or what we geeks call the root name servers. If the root servers do not recognize the name you get some kind of Not Found Error Message. Try the URL: myBrotherIsaRat.com. (heh heh :p )
Until your computer gets an answer for the name lookup request, your computer waits. If you have slow name servers your wait is longer. Since the information being transmitted is brief, your connection speed requires only a small percentage of the time needed. Most of the time required is spent with the name servers. Faster name servers means faster Internet browsing and page loads. Also it gives some advantage to Second Life residents.
Finding a DNS Server
There are several ways to find DNS servers. Most people use the server their ISP tells them to use. Often the server is provided automatically by the modem we use to connect to the Internet. The thing is it is not always the fastest or most reliable. Also some name servers provide some advertising on lookup fail.
To change name servers one needs a list of name servers. Public ones can be found using Google. Google even provides name servers. Your ISP’s name servers can be found in their help pages.
Rating Name Servers
Once you have a list you would need to find the fastest one… The thing is no one can provide you a list of the fastest name servers for your connection. Other people rating them doesn’t help you that much because because you may not use the same pathway to the name servers that others do. You need a personalized list. Fortunately there is a tool just for that.
Gibson Research Corporation (GRC) makes a bunch of tools for computer users. Membership in the geek guild is not needed to use them. Lots of explanation is provided with the tools. They usually require no installation and they are easy to use. One of those tools is the Domain Name Speed Benchmark. You will find the download and instructions for use at that link.
The tool contains a list of 4,000+ DNS servers. One step in using the tool is to find the best 50 from that list. If you live in Nevada, Australia or Europe, you will have a different top 50 than I do in California.
The benchmark run then provides you a list of the best performing name servers for you. You get a list that shows the best servers and your current in-use servers. Reading the list and informative explanations in the tool you can select the best serves for your computer.
There is quite a bit to consider when selecting a new server. GRC explains all that. I’ll just say read it, because if you don’t only you are to blame if your computer gets hijacked. Be smart.
Making the Change
I use Windows, so that is all I’ll cover. You can Google for how to change DNS on your Mac. Linux users tend to be geeks, so I’ll figure they know.
I suggest you write down the name servers you are already using. If something goes wrong you can revert back. You may even want to make a System Restore point to undo changes and restore your computer.
To get to your DNS settings: Start->(right-click) Network->(left) Properties. Or take whatever path you prefer to the Network and Sharing Center panel. Select Manage network connections. You should see a list of your network cards. Right-click the card connected to the Internet and select Properties. If you have more than one card just pick one. You can look for the one that has DNS values in the settings. Use the following information to find the values. In case you pick the wrong one, no problem, just cancel and close the panels and pick another card.
Once in properties select the IPv4 (Internet Protocol Version 4) item and click the Properties button. In the next Properties window you will see the DNS Server settings. If you are using automatic look up, note that. If you are using explicit addresses, write those down.
If you are using automatic lookup and want to know what the address of the server is you are using, then open a command line window, (Start->(type) cmd->(press) Enter or click on cmd.exe in the list. Once the command window opens, enter NSLOOKUP and press Enter. Your primary DNS Server will be listed. You can close the window.
The properties window is where you can enter new DNS Servers. If you are on automatic, select: Use the following DNS server addresses. I suggest that you then click the ADVANCED button then the DNS tab and enter new server addresses there. You can reorder the list. The top item is you primary DNS Server. Each item after that is a fall-back if the preceding one fails. So, you can leave your existing addresses and just add new ones. The fastest server from the benchmark should be the first/top entry.
OK you way out. You should be good to go.
If you have a good DNS server, this change will not make much difference. If you have a poor DNS server this change will make a noticeable difference and on a really poor one a big difference.
If you select trust worthy servers, the change does not affect your security. A poor selection can be detrimental to your computers health. Be smart.
If you are on the geeky side, you will find a treasure trove of handy tools on the GRC site. GRC makes the program Spinrite, which is a tool for recovering data from damaged hard drives. I’ve used it and think highly of it, so I’m plugging it in thanks for the free tools. If you like the tools help out GRC.